By Kyle Cheney
July 27, 2016
Democrats launched a sustained and withering attack Wednesday on Donald Trump, deploying the party’s highest-caliber stars in prime time to land their fiercest blows yet on the Republican presidential nominee.
“His lack of empathy and compassion can be summed up in that phrase he is most proud of making famous, ‘you're fired,’” roared Vice President Joe Biden. “He is trying to tell us he cares about the middle class. Give me a break. That is a bunch of malarkey.”
The third night of Democrats’ national convention in Philadelphia featured a strategic takedown of Trump’s candidacy. Speakers like former CIA director Leon Panetta and retired Admiral John Hutson painted Trump as too volatile and erratic to hold the nuclear codes.
Former Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg derided Trump as a “dangerous demagogue.” Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley called Trump an “immigrant-bashing carnival barker” and a “bully racist.” They picked apart and pillioried Trump’s business record and his slam of Sen. John McCain for getting captured during his military service in Vietnam.
And they ripped Trump for his newest controversy: urging earlier Wednesday that Russia recover and release Hillary Clinton’s private emails.
Even President Barack Obama, whose speech was largely a rosy recollection of his presidency and a boost to Clinton, mentioned Trump at least six times.
President Barack Obama touted the strides made during his presidency while urging voters to support Hillary Clinton.
"He’s not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either," Obama said. "He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated."
And in a more oblique but cutting swipe, Obama appeared to lump Trump together with America's enemies. "Anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end," he said.
Trump's campaign returned the harsh rhetoric with its own, slamming Democrats for speaking in "cheap, petty terms beneath the dignity of a convention."
"[T]hey resorted to the politics of fear, trying to convince Americans not to vote for change -- they spoke on behalf of the big banks and the big elites, not on behalf of suffering Americans," said senior Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller. "They want to keep the system rigged for their donors. Period. Rigged trade deals, a rigged economy, and open borders that benefit the few at the expense of the many."
It was easy, at times, to forget that the event was meant to be a Clinton pep rally. Speaker after speaker focused on Trump, and the day included emotional homages to Obama, Biden and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, all leaving office early next year.
Obama at the end of the night made the most forceful case for Clinton of the convention's first three days.
"That is the Hillary I know, that's the Hillary I've come to admire, and that's why I can say with confidence, there has never been a man or a woman -- not me, not Bill, nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America," he thundered.
"I hope you don't mind, Bill," he said as the grinning former president looked on, "but I was just telling the truth, man."
The fevered attacks on Trump reinforced an emerging narrative of the election: the most unifying message each party has to offer is the one that rips the other side as unfit for office. Republicans spent their convention last week stamping out an anti-Trump rebellion, but they appeared to heal their wounds with increasingly harsh calls to send Clinton to prison.
“Lock her up,” became the driving rallying cry of the convention.
Democrats, meanwhile, struggled to squelch an even greater rebellion among supporters of Bernie Sanders, who created havoc on the first night of the convention and displayed a deep fracture within the party. But they, too, found their stride in the anti-Trump calls on their third day.
“Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy,” said Bloomberg, an independent who had, to that point, received a somewhat subdued reception from the crowd.
The anti-Trump calls also helped smooth over the left’s lingering concerns with Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine, who addressed delegates after Biden. Kaine described Trump as a “moral disaster” and highlighted all the Republicans who have broken from the mogul.
The United States, he said, “is too great to put it in the hands of a slick-talking, empty-promising, self-promoting, one-man wrecking crew.”
Kaine was formally nominated to be vice president earlier Wednesday, a vote by acclamation that occurred with little fanfare. His speech revealed that he’s likely to fill the time-honored attack dog role that has often fallen to vice presidential candidates.
Trump, for his part, did his best to eat into Democrats’ monopoly on the news cycle.
It began with an unforced error, when Trump’ call for Russia to commit cyber-espionage against Clinton sparked a media frenzy and critics in both parties expressed dismay that he would cross such a line.
“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” the Republican nominee said at a news conference in Florida, about the messages deleted from Clinton’s private server. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
His campaign scrambled to walk back Trump’s comments, suggesting they were sarcastic and that he never insinuated Russia should hack the emails of a political opponent.
After the controversy flared, Trump maintained a wall-to-wall day of campaign events, including some that coincided with the night’s primetime speakers. He hosted a Reddit “Ask me Anything” session and held two rallies that featured more red meat for supporters.
Trump’s Russia comments made their way into the Democratic narrative Wednesday as well. Panetta said the remarks showed that Trump “once again took Russia’s side.”
“As someone who was responsible for protecting our nation from cyber attacks, it is inconceivable to me that any presidential candidate would be that irresponsible,” he said.
Trump was also an early target of speakers on the DNC program. “Millions have joined us in rejecting Donald Trump's bullying, racism, and his attempt to divide our American family,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who’s leading the party’s effort to make gains in the House.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who’s had a rocky relationship with Clinton throughout the primary, also ripped Trump for controversies surrounding Trump University.
But it was de Blasio's predecessor, Bloomberg, who seemed to crystallize the unusual — and unusually harsh — argument that Democrats and their allies have been making against Trump.
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